What is a MOOC?

Welcome to Week 3! This week is all about putting your digital skills into practice as you learn about MOOCs.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, or, as academics put it, "an online course designed for large number of participants that can be accessed by anyone anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection, is open to everyone without entry qualifications and offers a full/complete course experience online for free” (Brouns et al., 2014).

Educational researchers often debate what should count as a MOOC, and there are alternative models for understanding how MOOC are organised.  The most common form of MOOCs scale e-learning up to massive audiences and are typically referred to as xMOOCs (Downes, 2012). Whilst they include discussion forums, and allow people to bounce ideas around and discuss learning together, the centre of the course is the instructor-guided lesson. 

Characteristics of an xMOOC are:

  • Lessons are multimedia-rich and short – 10-20 minutes
  • Quizzes are integrated into lectures.
  • Upon completion, a student receives a statement of accomplishment and/or badges
  • Graded assignments have a due date
  • Tens of thousands of students with different backgrounds, languages and cultures participate in the course

The other main approach to MOOC design is known as cMOOC.  The “c” is taken to refer to increased emphasis on connection between learners.  Watch the following video to learn a bit more about cMOOCs.


The connected aspect of learning is brought to the fore in a cMOOC. It’s a chaotic experience and is inherently personal and subjective, as participants create their meaning and build and navigate their own web of connections.

cMOOCs heavily rely on blogs, discussion forums, wikis, and other platforms which allow students to form learning communities and construct knowledge, rather than learning the pre-prepared materials (such as those in an xMOOC). 


Activity 3.1 bizMOOC Book Allow at least 30 minutes for this activity

The MOOC Book, created by the EU-funded bizMOOC Project, contains helpful guidelines on the potential of MOOCs. Whether you are new to studying with MOOCs or already experienced, head over to Guidelines for Learners (Society) and browse the questions and answers there, following your own interests.


Next: Advantages of taking MOOCs


Last modified: Wednesday, 14 Mar 2018, 10:05